Years ago, Sameer Nair and Ekta Kapoor made history when the latter made her first two K soaps —
Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki
— for Star Plus (Sameer was then head of programming at the channel).
Years passed; the serials became monster hits and Star Plus became No. 1. Many more years passed; Sameer left Star Plus to start another entertainment channel, NDTV Imagine, while Ekta’s K serials started stagnating. Finally Star Plus pulled the plug on them. Meanwhile, another serial (Ballika Vadhu) on another channel (Colors) became the No. 1 show.
Now Ekta and Sameer have had a grand reunion: the TV queen (deposed queen?) is doing two back-to-back serials for NDTV Imagine on weekdays — Bandini and Kitani Mohabbat Hai.
But the leader has become the follower. Ballika Vadhu is set in rural Rajasthan, Bandini is set in rural Gujarat. Both have plenty of local colour in terms of costumes and dialogues (there were moments I thought I was watching a Gujarati serial when I saw Bandini). Ballika Vadhu is about two children getting married, Bandini is about a young girl who ends up marrying a man much older than her. Ballika Vadhu abandoned the headache-inducing special effects of K serials (all that zoom-in, zoom-out), Bandini has also dispensed with them. Now all that remains is for Bandini to display little homilies on the screen at the end of every episode (like Ballika Vadhu does) and the similarities will be complete.
How long Ekta will be able to keep to this alternate formula nobody knows. Perhaps her cinematographers will get withdrawal symptoms and revert to their seasick camera work. Perhaps the vamps with green contact lenses will get bored of hanging around in the wings and barge onto the sets, batting eyelashes coated with at least 17 layers of mascara. Perhaps Ekta’s scriptwriters will find themselves unable to write any more episodes and will quickly insert their favourite plotlines (coming back from the dead, the sudden discovery of illegitimate offspring etc).
Well, we’ll find out in the coming weeks.
But this is the oldest problem in showbiz. The minute something — a film / serial / song / anything — works with audiences, everyone copies it instantly. So, apart from Bandini, expect more rural sagas with a social message on other channels as well.
As for Kitani Mohabbat Hai, all I can say is, kitne aadmi the? Or rather, kitni ladkiyan thi?
The serial is about a principled school principal with many daughters (at last count there were at least four), all of whom are dutiful and good-hearted. One of them will soon fall in love with a very rich tycoon’s son. Presumably that’s where the kitani mohabbat of the title comes in.
Away from the happenings in our serials, big events were unfolding many continents away. Like the colour and cut of Michelle Obama’s gown, and the number of times her husband stepped on it. Or the celebrity turnout at the swearing-in.
America’s first black President taking charge was like a red carpet showbiz event and dance party rolled into one. Obama is certainly the most charismatic world leader at the moment (well, look at the competition, from stolid Gordon Brown to hyper Nikolas Sarkozy), but the blanket coverage of the swearing-in was enough to make even the most ardent Obama fans say, ‘No, we don’t!”
For me, the most entertaining show of the week was Farhan Akhtar’s interview with Shah Rukh Khan (Oye It’s Friday). Shah Rukh is the only star in all of Mumbai who can laugh at himself. The rest can compete for the Big Bore awards. They’ll all win.